With race looming as a key issue in the fall elections--perhaps a pivotal one, assuming that Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee--diehard defenders of the racial status quo are going to unprecedented lengths to prevent voters from having their say on government-sponsored racial preferences. Leftist activists are lining up to fight four state ballot initiatives that, if passed on November 4, will outlaw preferential treatment based on race, gender, and national origin in public university admissions as well as government hiring and contracting. Knowing that such anti-preference initiatives enjoy strong public support--in fact, they have already passed overwhelmingly in three of the nation's bluest ! states--the activists have zero interest in waging these fights on the merits. Rather, their goal is to keep the initiatives off the ballot by any means necessary, up to and including political chicanery and outright physical intimidation.
The states where anti-preferences forces are aiming to be on the ballot are Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, and Nebraska. Leading the campaign, dubbed "Super Tuesday for Equal Rights," is California businessman Ward Connerly, long the nation's leading advocate for colorblind government policies. In 1996, Connerly launched the first such measure, the California Civil Rights Initiative, or Proposition 209; he was drawn to the issue by his realization, as a trustee of the state's university system, that race was routinely the key determinant in whether a student was accepted or rejected at California's public colleges. Following a bruising campaign, marked by Prop. 209 opponents' relentlessly attacking supporters as racist, the initiative passed by 8 points. Two years later, a near-identical measure won by 16 points in Washington State. And in 2006, despite a powerful Democratic tide, the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative likewise passed by a decisive 58 to 42 percent.
In fact, so powerfully does the issue resonate with voters as a matter of elementary fairness that its support everywhere cuts across traditional party lines. In liberal Washington State, for example, the anti-preferences initiative was backed not only by 80 percent of Republicans and 62 percent of independents, but by 41 percent of Democrats; this in the face of liberal opposition that--abetted by such local corporate behemoths as Eddie Bauer, Microsoft, and Starbucks--massively outspent supporters of the measure. The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative similarly passed despite the fierce opposition of a liberal-left coalition of 180 groups, ranging from the League of Women Voters and the United Auto Workers to the Arab-American Institute. After the Michigan initiative's passage, the leader of the most radical of the opposition groups, By Any Means Necessary, declared that the only way to stop anti-preference measures was to ensure that they never reached the voters.
While Connerly's troops have gone about the difficult and costly process of placing the state initiatives on the ballot this November, preference defenders have seized on unprincipled strategies to block them, focusing in particular on two swing states with large minority populations: Colorado and Missouri. In Colorado, the pro-preference side first mounted a series of challenges to the legal basis of the Colorado Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI), alleging that it deceptively misappropriated the term "civil rights" and also claiming that "preferences" did not in and of themselves equal "discrimination"--so that in seeking to outlaw both, the measure supposedly violated the state's "single-subject" rule governing ballot initiatives.
When these arguments failed to pass muster with the electoral commission and state courts, preference defenders tried an even more novel approach, deceptive in intent yet heavy-handed in execution: a ballot initiative of their own, a shadow version of the anti-preference measure clearly intended to confuse voters. Indeed, its first sentence is identical to that of the anti-preference measure: "Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado Constitution concerning a prohibition against discrimination by the state, and, in connection therewith, prohibiting the state from discriminating against or granting preferential treatment to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, and public contracting?" But as Connerly notes, "it proceeds in the second sentence to say that, notwithstanding the first sentence, any public agency in Colorado would be free to leave preferences intact."
After considerable back-and-forth, the state's title board disallowed the language in the shadow amendment, and preference supporters are currently trying to come up with alternative wording. But given the need to submit upward of 76,000 valid signatures to place an initiative on the state ballot, the clock is running out. Meanwhile, CCRI supporters have already submitted 50,000 more signatures than required, so the genuine anti-preferences initiative will definitely be on the ballot.
So, almost certainly, will the measures in Nebraska and in John McCain's home state of Arizona. Connerly remains confident about Missouri as well, though the opposition there has been even more aggressive in its tactics. Democratic secretary of state Robin Carnahan, charged with what is normally the routine certification of ballot measures, instead went to work on this one, eliminating its straightforward language, derived from that of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and substituting wording that pleads the other side's case. The question, as she wanted to pose it to voters, was whether to amend the state's constitution to "ban affirmative action programs designed to eliminate discrimination against, and improve opportunities for, women and minorities in public contracting, employment and education." So egregious was this subterfuge that a liberal county circuit judge took the unprecedented step of throwing out Carnahan's rewrite and reinstating the original language almost! intact.
Still, as Connerly observes, "all the forces of the Left are converging in Missouri--Acorn and the rest of the race industry, the feminists, the unions, the contractors who feed off this stuff--and George Soros is providing a lot of the funding. They're enlisting the whole vast left-wing conspiracy--and, believe me, it's a lot vaster than the supposed right-wing one." The ugliness is most evident on the streets, where supporters of the ballot initiative are busy gathering signatures. Opponents' chief tactic is to use "blockers"--often burly union men--to shadow signature gatherers and scare off potential signers by charging not only that the initiative is racist and has the support of the Ku Klux Klan, but also that the signers risk identity theft. In addition, the pro-preferences sources have dispatched their people to sign petitions with false names and addresses, so that they will be invalidated later.
Earlier this year, such methods took their toll in Oklahoma, which was to be the fifth state holding such an initiative and where, with the measure polling at close to 90 percent, it would surely have won. In the end, though, the number of signatures gathered exceeded the required number by only a few thousand. Since typically only 72 percent of any petition's signatures are valid, and since the ACLU and NAACP were importing teams to challenge every one, Connerly chose not to proceed. "We had a choice of spending a quarter of a million dollars to defend the signatures we had, with the likelihood of not succeeding," he says, "or fight another day. Eventually we'll have to sue to change that process." But Oklahoma is a special case, with the toughest ballot requirements anywhere: all signature gatherers must be state residents, and they have a mere 90 days to get an unusually high number of signatures.
Connerly is taking no chances in Missouri. The fight against Carnahan's rewrite of the initiative ate up considerable time, and with a May 4 deadline looming, he has put out a call for opponents of racial preferences to come to the state over the next few weeks and lend a hand. "I don't blame the Democrats for being scared of these initiatives," he says with understatement, "especially on the heels of Jeremiah Wright."
Though the racial-preference ballot measures are officially nonpartisan, they stand to make a dramatic impact on the fall campaign. With the question of racial preferences effectively nationalized by its presence on multiple state ballots, neither party's presidential candidate will be able to evade the issue. While this might pose a dilemma for McCain--who, like most Republicans, has long shied away from the topic and might worry about jeopardizing Hispanic support--it could be catastrophic for Obama. As Connerly says, "This is a guy who's tried awfully hard for a long time not to appear what he is--just another left-winger who supports preferences."
'Expelled' film-makers go on offensive against 'thought police'
Movie producers seeking court ruling refuting copyright claim
A court challenge to the new movie "Expelled: No Intelligence allowed," by Ben Stein is nothing more than an attempt on the part of the pro-evolution believers in the science community to stifle the free expression and debate of ideas, movie officials say.
"We are not surprised that opponents of our film are attempting to interfere with its important message," said Executive Producer Logan Craft. "As the movie documents, similar tactics are being used across the country against many of the researchers, scientists, and professors who want to engage in free debate within science but have inadequate resources to challenge the Establishment." Craft, who also is chairman of Premise Media, continued, "However, we do have the platform to confront the 'thought police,' and we will work tirelessly to open the doors of free speech and inquiry."
The groundbreaking movie is scheduled to open in more than 1,000 theaters on Friday. But it is facing an allegation of "unfounded copyright infringement" from representatives of XVIVO, LLC, a scientific animation company, over the movie's use of "original animation Premise Media created for the documentary." Instead of waiting, Premise Media went to court this week in a pre-emptive effort to get the issue resolved. Its lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, seeks a declaratory judgment that there is no copyright or other infringement. "Premise Media also seeks its attorneys' fees in responding to the XVIVO claims," the company said today.
The action resulted from "unfounded claims recently made by representatives of XVIVO. These claims have received wide distribution as part of an ongoing campaign attempting to discredit the film and its producers," the Premise announcement said. "Premise Media has also learned of grassroot efforts that are under way to try to influence the ranking of Internet searches regarding 'EXPELLED' by those wanting to learn about the film. Their stated goal is an attempt to counter-site those searchers to other websites that criticize the themes in the movie," the company said.
"Said Executive Producer Walt Ruloff. "It is interesting that these efforts are made less than 10 days before the movie debuts and involve those who continually seek to thwart open debate. "While bullying tactics may work against some individuals who are trying to explore the origins of life, it will not work against us. We certainly will not allow a small group of self-appointed gatekeepers to infringe our rights of free speech and our obligation to expose them for what they are -- namely, intellectual thugs unwilling to accept any dissent from Darwinian orthodoxy," he said.
Stein said it was unlikely he'd pull his punches about the movie based on such claims, either. "I came to this project unsure what I would find," said Stein, "I am now amazed at the intolerance of many academic elites. I feel that it is my mission to speak out on behalf of targeted dissenters and fight for their freedom of speech and freedom of inquiry." .....
XVIVO officials have alleged a segment of the movie portraying the complexity of the cell is patterned on segments of their own animation. Expelled officials say they created their own animation. The claims of copyright infringement have been publicized largely by pro-evolution organizations such as the National Center for Science Education and prominent atheist Richard Dawkins.
"This is not a scientific battle; this is a worldview battle," "Expelled" producer Mark Mathis told WND Columnist Jill Stanek. "'Expelled' connects atheism and Darwinism with no missing link, one of the film's two major flashpoints," she wrote. "Darwinism is a specific evolutionary theory that excludes everything but material processes in the design of all life forms. No Intelligent Design allowed." "What's driving it is Darwinism is a foundational principle - scientific validation of secularism, atheism, liberalism - and that it strikes at the core of who they are," said Mathis.
"Secondarily, these scientists are the high priests of the biggest question ever asked. They have all the authority, knowledge, power, funding," continued Mathis. "This is ground they own exclusively. They look down their elitist noses at the unwashed ignorant religious masses and scoff. That's why they respond with such extreme hostility. They are very concerned that if this monolith cracks, then the whole thing could crash." "Not only is Darwinism foundational to atheism, it is foundational to eugenics, the other reason for the left's apoplexy against 'Expelled,' according to Mathis. They cannot tolerate the connection 'Expelled' draws between Darwinism and Adolf Hitler," Stanek wrote. "Or Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood."
Swedes finally facing reality
Yousif Emad had learnt a little Swedish in the past eight months -- enough to know that the four-page official letter meant the end of his dreams. The 46-year-old Christian, who fled Baghdad after repeated threats to force him to convert to Islam, yesterday became one of the growing number of Iraqis to be refused asylum in Sweden, which until recently was the most welcoming European country for refugees. He thought it would be a formality to join the 6,000-strong Iraqi community in Sodertalje, a small town near Stockholm, which is known locally as Little Iraq. Fellow exiles fish in the ornamental lake for their dinner in the town, which has taken more of his countrymen than Britain or the United States.
"I sold my house and gave $17,000 (œ8,523) to a smuggler to get to Sweden because I heard they wanted immigrants," said Mr Emad after breaking the news of his rejection to his wife and three children in Syria. "If they send me back to Baghdad I will be killed."
Sweden granted full refugee status to 24,799 Iraqis from 2003-07 compared with 260 by Britain. Another 2,680 were given humanitarian or discretionary leave to remain in the UK.
Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, wants the EU to do more to help the Iraqi Christians, many of whom are among the two million refugees in Syria and Jordan. Yesterday her Interior Minister outlined plans to resettle more Iraqis in Germany. But as Sweden -- in particular Sodertalje -- has learnt, the region is suffering from compassion fatigue. Anders Lago, the Mayor of the town, went to Washington last week to tell a congressional committee that his schools and apartment buildings could no longer cope.
"It was fantastic as a mayor of a small town in Sweden coming to the big USA to give a speech in Congress," said Mr Lago, 51. "I told them that it was not us who started the war but today we are taking a great responsibility for Iraqi refugees. Barack Obama told me he was ashamed that the US did not take more care for refugees. "I asked if there was some way the US could help Sodertalje - but the war has cost the people in the US a lot so I do not think they will be sending any money here for taking care of the refugee problem." Mr Lago's reward came when the US Ambassador to Sweden visited his town of 80,000 people yesterday, where the college has built four classrooms to give Swedish lessons.
Mr Lago is also concerned by "white flight" as local people start to move away from Iraqi districts. At Helenelunds school on a neat housing estate, six more Iraqi children turned up this week. Karin Alberg, the head teacher, said: "When I have visitors I have to explain why there are very few blonds in our school. But I think it is really good for us because the children from Iraq want to learn more than any other children and their motivation is infectious." Meena Qudsi, 12, who wants to be a doctor, said: "Baghdad is beautiful but here is safe. My family used to be in Baghdad but now we are separated."
The generous welfare system in Sweden - with handouts of 6,000 kronor ($1,000) a month to those granted asylum as well as work experience and 550 hours of free Swedish lessons -- attracted 36,200 asylum-seekers last year. Of the 222,900 asylum claims to the EU, one in six was to Sweden.
Because of the influx, migration courts were introduced, which decided last year that Iraq was no longer a war zone and ended automatic asylum. Each applicant must now prove that they are in grave personal danger. Sweden also signed a return agreement with Iraq in February and has begun sending failed asylum-seekers back in greater numbers to deter economic migrants. Tobias Billstrom, the Migration Minister, said: "The conclusion by the Swedish Government is that we can help some people but we cannot help everybody who is in trouble and so there has to be a more evenly shared responsibility among the countries of the EU and the US."
Sweden is so upset by other EU countries that it has vowed to push for a fair distribution of asylum-seekers. "We have reached the conclusion that there should be a common European asylum system and we will make this a priority during our presidency of the EU in 2009," Mr Billstrom said. "We will also call for the European Court of Justice to have the final word so that the European Commission can say that a country is falling behind when it comes to asylum. Every country in the EU has to look into themselves and consider what their obligations are in this situation," he added.
Mr Emad will appeal against his asylum rejection but feels his case is hopeless. "We were threatened but how can I show it? We had a letter telling us to leave but my brother was so angry he tore it up," he said.
American Democracy v. European Oligarchy
Post below recycled from Brussels Journal. See the original for links
As the American Primary/Caucus season cranks into a frenzy of campaigning, claim, counter-claim, low blow and moments of pathos (or, in the case of Hillary Clinton, a carefully contrived moment of pseudo-lachrymosity), take heed of the rude good health of American democracy. How unlike some aspects of our own but more particularly European democracy, it is.
I have always loved the language of the American Constitution and of its siblings, the constitutions of the original American colonies that formed the earliest of the United States. As we have just witnessed the Primary in New Hampshire (motto: `Live free or Die'), this gem of a Preamble from its 1776 constitution will suffice to demonstrate their lustre:
WE, the members of the Congress of New Hampshire, chosen and appointed by the free suffrages of the people of said colony, and authorized and empowered by them to meet together, and use such means and pursue such measures as we should judge best for the public good; and in particular to establish some form of government, provided that measure should be recommended by the Continental Congress: And a recommendation to that purpose having been transmitted to us from the said Congress: Have taken into our serious consideration the unhappy circumstances, into which this colony is involved by means of many grievous and oppressive acts of the British Parliament, depriving us of our natural and constitutional rights and privileges; to enforce obedience to which acts a powerful fleet and army have been sent to this country by the ministry of Great Britain, who have exercised a wanton and cruel abuse of their power, in destroying the lives and properties of the colonists in many places with fire and sword, taking the ships and lading from many of the honest and industrious inhabitants of this colony employed in commerce, agreeable to the laws and customs a long time used here.It is interesting to note that, though a formidable casus belli is set out at first, there remained, at least with the denizens of New Hampshire, a strong desire to seek some compromise with Britain. Though events and the effluxion of time would soon sweep this away, one does wonder if there had been a more emollient response from Parliament and the British Government and greater willingness to compromise whether matters might have turned out rather differently.
The sudden and abrupt departure of his Excellency John Wentworth, Esq., our late Governor, and several of the Council, leaving us destitute of legislation, and no executive courts being open to punish criminal offenders; whereby the lives and properties of the honest people of this colony are liable to the machinations and evil designs of wicked men, Therefore, for the preservation of peace and good order, and for the security of the lives and properties of the inhabitants of this colony, we conceive ourselves reduced to the necessity of establishing A FORM OF GOVERNMENT to continue during the present unhappy and unnatural contest with Great Britain; PROTESTING and DECLARING that we never sought to throw off our dependence upon Great Britain, but felt ourselves happy under her protection, while we could enjoy our constitutional rights and privileges. And that we shall rejoice if such a reconciliation between us and our parent State can be effected as shall be approved by the CONTINENTAL CONGRESS, in whose prudence and wisdom we confide.
Accordingly pursuant to the trust reposed in us, WE DO Resolve, that this Congress assume the name, power and authority of a house of Representatives or Assembly for the Colony of New-Hampshire [.]
Today we might expect with modern communications that the problem would not have been allowed to fester and grow but then, when a letter or petition would take many weeks to cross the Atlantic and many weeks to garner a reply, those with a mind to do so had much time in which to preempt any response which might then be made to seem niggardly when it finally did arrive.
One feature of American democracy is that a considerable amount of political discourse is founded on the Constitution which thus remains a living and breathing embodiment of both the spirit of a Revolution and of the modern United States.
For example, the rights of states to conduct and legislate upon their own affairs is something which continues to engage politics and trouble the Supreme Court, with States fiercely protecting their own rights as against the Federal power with terrier-like tenacity. Or one might think of the current arguments which revolve around the highly contentious (and to the rationalist, bizarre and worrying) issue of whether the `theory' of intelligent design (or `creation' science) might be taught in schools which, despite the ruling in Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987), its advocates still seek to achieve, notwithstanding the apparent separation of Church and State which the Constitution enshrines.
The point is that Americans set great store by the terms of their Constitution and it remains the touchstone by which so much of what is done has to be measured. It is tested time and again by political discourse and yet remains a thing of great facility, simplicity and beauty. I bet that many Americans can recite much of it by heart, not something you could do with the Treaty of Lisbon and its many thousands of words of gobbledygook.
In contrast the bombastic overblown popcorn rhetoric of the Constitution of the European Union is routinely debauched by a largely self-perpetuating oligarchy which mouths the mantras of democracy and transparency but which behind closed doors subverts that very same democracy. And given the deliberate obscurity and bloated nature of its language, no citizen of the Union will find himself inclined to use the Constitution as a touchstone for anything: he is, given its sheer size and weight, more likely to use it as a door-stop.
If you bridle at the phrase `self-perpetuating oligarchy', just ask yourself what the current government of Belgium, which lost the general election in June 2007 but has recently been reappointed is if it is not such?
And given the general tendency for European States to have systems of election which favour, indeed encourage, ever-revolving coalitions, it is no surprise that most governments within the Union are, for the most part, elaborate games of Buggin's Turn with the same tired old faces turning up time and again in this or that post over twenty or so years of active political life. Even Germany has lately succumbed to the politics of emollience, compromise with policies predicated on the basis of being the least offensive to everyone, with an effectively oppositionless administration.
And as for the practice of subverting democracy behind closed doors, what better example could you have of that than the bullying by Nicolas Sarkozy, Gordon Brown and Angela Merkel of the hapless Jos‚ S¢crates, the Portuguese Prime Minister, who had apparently been entertaining hallucinatory thoughts of holding a referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon?
As the Times reports today:
A referendum on the controversial redrafted EU constitution was ruled out by Portugal yesterday after pressure from Gordon Brown and President Sarkozy.This weak-minded individual has lately been weaned off that particular drug by some less-than-democratic boot-boy tactics by two of the men with most to lose if anything should go wrong with the process of ratification: Brown, because if the Portuguese hold a referendum, it makes his resistance to one in the UK all the more weak and Sarkozy because he wants nothing to get in the way of a Union constructed according to the model of his predecessor Giscard d'Estaing which France intends to dominate and operate for its own benefit.
The Prime Minister and Mr Sarkozy called Jose Socrates, the Portuguese Prime Minister, to insist that a popular ballot was not necessary.
The decision by Portugal not to hold a referendum but to ratify the treaty through its parliament will come as a huge relief to Downing Street and the Elysee Palace, which feared extra pressure on them to hold a public vote. The revelation of top-level phone calls will, though, only increase suspicions that the European political elite have coordinated efforts to avoid a repeat of the referendums in France and the Netherlands in 2005 that sank the proposed constitution and plunged the EU into a two-year crisis.
Mr Socrates is also understood to have called Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, to ask her view before announcing his decision.
He told Portuguese MPs: "A referendum in Portugal would jeopardise, without any reason to do so, the full legitimacy of the ratification by national parliaments that is taking place in all the other European countries."
Richard North has already commented on the topic at EUreferendum as has Tony Sharp at Waendal Journal and I shall not here go over again greatly the ground upon which they have so usefully trod.
But I do add this: unlike the American Constitution which is, as I have described it, the touchstone of political life in the USA, the Constitution of the European Union is something which the Gauleiters and Pr‚fets such as Brown and Sarkozy think of as to be ignored, evaded, manipulated or just plain overthrown at will whenever the need arises. When the Constitution speaks thus:
The Union is founded on the values of respect for [.] freedom, democracy, [.] the rule of law and respect for human rights,those are mere empty words on the page which must never, ever be allowed to get in the way of the aims of the powerful oligarchs who now decide upon our fate, which is to have unfettered power over the lives of us all.
Every citizen shall have the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union. Decisions shall be taken as openly and as closely as possible to the citizen.
How else, pray, could you describe the process by which, instead of the eleven million citizens of Portugal deciding on whether they wish to be bound by this Treaty, it was done for them by Jos‚ Socrates, Nicolas Sarkozy, Gordon Brown and Angela Merkel, only one of whom is Portuguese, in a series of telephone calls? The Portuguese people?: "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche!" [Let them eat cake!]. Or to put it another way, we shall soon be forced to admit, as Pierre-Joseph Proudhon once declared in the wake of the Revolutions of 1848, that:
We have been beaten and humiliated [.] scattered, imprisoned, disarmed and gagged. The fate of European democracy has slipped from our hands.We must not allow democracy to slip thus from our hands.
In Britain we do not do revolutions. That messy business has been avoided by hundreds of years of careful, progressive evolutionary development of democracy. What we called the `Glorious Revolution' was, in reality, a carefully scripted transfer of power and rule from one r‚gime to another and our only serious flirtation with dictatorship, that of Oliver Cromwell, was booted out with sighs of relief but no great revolutionary bloodletting.
But whilst we are not revolutionaries, we do now, after proper reflection, share many of the sentiments which gave birth to the American Revolution and most of us now would acknowledge that the thirteen colonies were being given a raw deal by the home country and that their bid for redress or freedom was entirely justified.
Which is why, if this is how our masters intend to do business from now on, our abjuration of revolution might yet change. Nothing is forever.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
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